This years NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis started out ominously enough when the Washington Redskins sent out a letter to their full season ticket holders in which Robert Griffin III’s name was missing. He was missing as one of their franchise core players, and naturally that raised plenty of eyebrows. This happened a couple weeks ago, so everyone had this question aimed and ready when the event started.
Washington Redskins coach, Jay Gruden, said that Griffins is the team’s anticipated starting quarterback in 2015. “Robert ended the season as our starter and we anticipate that going forward,” Gruden said. “He’ll be the No. 1 guy.”
As we know, talk is cheap, and there’s many months to go before those words can ring true. It sounds good now, but we’ll see what happens once the season kicks off in the fall. In the meantime, here’s some things learned already from the combine.
1. We’re convinced the Titans are taking a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick. On Wednesday, both coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Ruston Webster sounded open to swinging for the fences with Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Neither committed to Zach Mettenberger as next year’s starter. It’s clear the Titans like Mettenberger, but Webster talked about the team “swimming upstream” until they find their guy.
2. San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said the team hasn’t given up on re-signing wideout Michael Crabtree or guard Mike Iupati. Baalke waxed poetic about the Niners wanting to re-sign their own free agents, but acknowledged to Around The NFL that not everyone can be kept. We don’t expect either player to be back, but Baalke did go out of his way to compliment running backFrank Gore, saying that the free-agent-to-be still has plenty left in the tank.
3. Jim Harbaugh hasn’t been forgotten: Baalke fielded plenty of questions about his former coach, many more than were asked about new coach Jim Tomsula. Asked aboutHarbaugh’s suggestion that his split with the team wasn’t mutual, Baalke wouldn’t play ball, saying: “Jim’s moved on, we’ve moved on. He’s done a heck of a job. We’ve got a new head football coach and we’re trying to get ready for the draft, free agency and the offseason.”
4. New Raiders coach Jack Del Rio drew laughs when a reporter asked if Derek Carr will be his starting quarterback next season — something nobody questions. “I certainly would hope so,” Del Rio said. “You’re not trying to jinx me now, are you?”
5. The Raiders haven’t made a decision about Maurice Jones-Drew, who is set to make $2.5 million next season. When I asked if the running back might become a roster casualty, Del Rio said “that’s something we’ll continue to look at.” The coach said he met with MJD and asked, “Hey, man, can you be explosive again? We need to know.”
6. Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine revealed Wednesday that he recently met with Johnny Manziel, who checked himself into treatment before the Super Bowl. “I did go to visit him last week,” Pettine said, adding: “I just wanted to go visit him and see how he’s doing and let him know that we’re proud of him for the decision that he made to go in. Obviously he has our full support.” Pettine, though, acknowledged that Cleveland heads into the offseason needing to find a new starter under center.
7. Pettine didn’t mince words on the texting scandal surrounding Browns general manager Ray Farmer. “I wasn’t thrilled about it, but Ray and I have had very clear and open conversations about it,” Pettine said. “… He’s apologized, not just to myself, but to other members of the organization. … But at the same time I’m very comfortable with my relationship with Ray.” Farmer’s Thursday morning presser should be … intriguing.
8. The first question for Rex Ryan today: What was it like to watch the Patriots win the Super Bowl. “It was terrible,” Ryan replied with a grin. “Next question.” Ryan confirmed Buffalo’s meeting with free-agent quarterback Josh McCown, but remained in the corner of former first-round pick EJ Manuel. “I think he’s a young man that has some potential. We’ll see how that pans out.”
9. Last March, the Steelers used their transition tag to keep linebacker Jason Worilds in black and yellow. On Wednesday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert sounded more open to parting ways with the former second-round pick. “We’ve talked and he understands if he doesn’t get tagged — which we could still do — that he will explore the market and see what’s out there. We’ll stay in communication and maybe he comes back, maybe he moves on. But he’s been a good player for us and we’d love to have him back if it all fits.”
10. More Colbert, this time on Ben Roethlisberger, who’s entering the final year of his contract: “Talks with our quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, are still progressing, ongoing. As we said earlier when we announced the beginning of the negotiations, there’s no timetable. We’ll continue to work on it and get something done sooner than later.”
11. The Vikings sound serious about keeping Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. GM Rick Spielman shut down our inquiry about a potential contract impasse with the running back, but then went on to speak glowingly about a potential comeback season: “I just know that Adrian Peterson is a pretty unique football player. I know people (say) he’s a 30-year-old running back, but I also know what people said when he was coming off his ACL and had maybe one of the best seasons a running back can have. This is a running back that is very unique from a physical standpoint and we’re talking about a guy who didn’t take many hits on his body last year, only played one game. I expect when Adrian Peterson comes back that he’s going to come back with a point to prove to everybody.”
12. It’s a new world for the Jets with Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan running the show. The coach and general manager spoke back-to-back in the afternoon and displayed none of the entertainer qualities that defined the Rex Ryan era. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course. Maccagnan revealed that the Jets met with Josh McCown in Indianapolis. Both Bowles and Maccagnan were otherwise extremely tight-lipped about the quarterback position.
13. As far as Gary Kubiak is concerned the sun is shining brightly and the birds are all chirping in Denver. The new Broncos coach said both Peyton Manning and Wes Welker told him they feel great health-wise. Kubiak was emphatic about his desire for the quarterback to return in 2015.
14. Steve Keim announced the Cardinals “finalized” Larry Fitzgerald’s contract negotiation. The two-year deal is for $11 million per season and saves the Cards $13 million.
15. The Chicago Bears remain mum on Jay Cutler’s future. Both coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace declined a chance to back their quarterback. Pace refused to call Cutler the starting quarterback, citing that he wants to get to know the player more first. It feels like this is a situation where the team doesn’t love the quarterback, but knows it can’t do much about it.
16. Martin Mayhew’s press conference synopsis: Suh. Suh. Suh. Suh. Suh. Reggie Bush might not be back. Suh. Suh. Suh. Suh. The news is there is still no news on Ndamukong Suh’s contract.
17. John Harbaugh said he’s talked to Steve Smithand both sides are planning on the receiver returning next season. “He’s excited and planning on being back. We’re planning on having him back. I don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t happen.”
18. Andy Reid said Eric Berry — undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma — is heading in the right direction medically. “His spirit is strong,” Reid said. “He’s a stud anyway you look at it.”
19. Les Snead doesn’t sound like a general manager prepared to deal Sam Bradford. He spent plenty of his allotted time speaking about the lack of talent in the current free-agent pool and his desire to build a stable of talented quarterbacks. Bradford, coming off two ACL tears, was given permission to get away from football by Snead in order to clear his head. He has also been updating Snead regularly on his rehabilitation. Basically, this just doesn’t look like a pair that is prepping for divorce a la John Fox and Jay Cutler.
20. To that same point, does anyone else have the feeling that the Rams are going to be good next year? Snead joked that he feels like he’s drafting on a diet now that he doesn’t have all his picks from Washington, but the timing feels right for everything to come together. Of course, Bradford needs to stay healthy, but Snead sounds like an executive confident in his plan.
21. The Buccaneers are being downright ridiculous by talking up Mike Glennon. It’s not that we don’t think the former third-round pick has talent — he does. But to call him a potential franchise quarterback after benching him when the team was clearly out of the playoffs was absurd. Maybe Tampa Bay wants everyone to think they’ll stay away from Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston, which comes with the pre-draft territory. But to try and suggest that a quarterback who couldn’t win your starting job is the future of the team is unfair to all parties involved.
22. John Fox was the right coach for the Bears. Under Marc Trestman it felt like the players eventually gained control of the ship, but Fox isn’t about to let that happen. His comments — or lack thereof — on Cutler and Marshall on Wednesday were pitch perfect. This team is going to look dramatically different in two years.
23. Teams in the mix for potential relocation don’t have it easy, which is why it was interesting to listen to Snead talk about his situation in St. Louis and whether he thinks it will impact free agency: “I really don’t. I think it’s an era of — it’s always been the era of most money wins and if it’s close who’s the coach.”